tv Newsmakers CSPAN June 7, 2015 10:00am-10:31am EDT
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> next, "newsmakers" and we will show you the announcements for presidential nominations. host: we want to welcome back senator patrick leahy democrat of vermont. the longest-serving senator in the senate right now. sir, thank you. we also have an studio with us mike debonis: and dustin volz:. thank you for being here.
senator, i want to ask the first question. in a secret step nsa expanded its internet by. can you tell us if you have concerns about its? senator leahy: i do have concerns. you are talking about the fact that picking up on -- host: right. the story is -- some are saying it is a major policy decision about how to structure cyber security in the united states. senator leahy: we have to have cyber security. one thing senator lee -- and this is somewhat related -- a bill that would be an update on our own privacy on the internet. it was written back in 1986.
we kind of chuckled at a press conference, senator lee mentioned he was in sixth grade at the time. i mentioned i was one of the ones writing the bill at the time. but it dealt with the internet as we knew it too then. it dealt with -- you know -- it is so different. you have far more computing power on your phone than that massive computer in your office would have had back in 1986. and our records, our files everything is stored usually in the cloud. it is very easy to track. we want to change this to require a warrant, a search warrant to do it. the example i gave and people understand -- if you have your files, your records, all your personal things in the filing cabinet in your home, you fully
expect somebody to have a search warrant to come into your home and get it. it should be the same if they're going to take it out of a server held in the cloud. you want to have privacy. we have so will the way -- whittled away the privacy of americans that i think most americans would be fighting if they knew how much of their privacy they have given up. not only to the government, also to commercial interests. whether it is the companies that run the internet or -- or stores where you buy things and so forth. host: this program, revealed by edward snowden, means that -- because of the secret memos that were written by the nsa -- in an effort to tort a cyber attack the nsa can go in to try and track internet travel without a
word. so they can go into the cloud? senator leahy: this is where i think they should have to have a warrant. remember, some rules -- we don't get a warrant to go into isis for example, but we do get warrants if there are americans being involved. the program you are talking about leaves a huge gray area. and what i'm concerned about is the number of times the has been a gray area that has gone so far beyond what was ever intended by the law. or what is allowed by the law. the collection, use out the second circuit did. and ruling it illegal. now, we have ended bulk collection with legislation that
we just passed in the house and the senate and the president signed into law. but i don't think everybody should breathe a sigh of relief and say, well, the nation is secure and our privacy is secure. i say we still have questions of both cases. mike debonis: senator, as you said, it has been a remarkable week on capitol hill. the senate passed what you called the most significant intelligence reform in decades since the late 1970's. i want to step back and ask you about this. as the "new york times" story today -- a reminder that edwards noted is still here. the material that he released the still around and it is still leaking out. do you think that two years later -- monday is the second anniversary of the first disclosures from his cash --
cahcee -- cache, has indicated him as a whistleblower or does he remain a criminal to -- criminal? senator leahy: i think that a number of senators have voted for reform, and those who voted against it -- i will let them speak for themselves. the fact of the matter is what we have done. one of the reasons -- it is interesting. he was, at that time, the majority leader of the house. and we got together to put the provision in. now, if we didn't have the sunset provision, do you think congress would have been acting and looking at these things from snowden?
you can argue whether his disclosures -- the thing that really made it happen is that we had sunset provisions and we had that one way or the other. i glad those were there. i wish we had acted last year. but that was filibustered. it tells us in a changing world and increasingly complex cyber world, we make a huge mistake if we take, ok we passed the bill, now it is all set. everybody's good. we saw the materials that have come out and we also saw the public -- there were some wonderful men and women who worked there, very dedicated to this country who had a spokesperson for them say, well
this stop 52 terrorist attacks. when they came before my committee and the public, the 52 went down to 12, which then went down to 1 after the fact. that, you know, or those on the floor of the senate would argue if we had had all this bulk collection and everything, we never would have had 9/11. baloney. we had all the information necessary. to stop 9/11. as you reporters have brought out subsequently, and we didn't connect the dots. -- some of the wiretaps -- after that 11, they said, we have to get somebody in here to translate the information. mike debonis: just to follow-up if not for whistleblowers and
those willing to break the law like edward snowden, how do we spur reform in these programs? we have oversight committees obviously, but the people on those committees are hand strong and that they can trivial -- they can't reveal the scope of these programs. given the fact that he is on the committee and he cannot break the law, you cannot let the people know and really sparked the debates that is needed. senator leahy: it is a difficult thing. if you do the number of times i have raised the is as close sessions, problems which i won't go into here, but what i would suggest is that if somebody said that they weren't being a whistleblower, we do have protections for whistleblowers. if we need to make them tighter, do it. but there are good people in the
house and the senate and some of these oversight committees in both parties. go to them and say look, i want to come as a whistleblower. will you bring me before your committee and let me tell you what is going on? i think that is a better way. and we've done this in some law enforcement things, i know, in the past. i wish it would have been done this way because then you can get the information and act on it, but you also don't release information to the whole world that may put the united states in jeopardy. dustin volz: i want to go back to the freedom act and its passageway this week. you mentioned that the bill came up in the senate last are last november, and came just short of a pass. senator leahy: when i came to the senate, 51 votes is all it took. at 58, we still go to get past because of the filibuster.
dustin volz: it fell short when the democrats walked out of the senate last year. i think a lot of people thought reform was not going to happen because mr. o'connell -- mr. mcconnell was very clear on his reform. it then came up again before the memorial day recess before you are finally able to get the victory this week. what do you credit on the overcoming that 60 votes threshold and finally being able to go forward that finally allowed you to get this bill through? senator leahy: that is a good question. it came about because of a whole lot of work. done by dedicated senators. i have publicly complimented senator lee of utah. we are miles apart politically but we made the decision to work very closely together on this. we didn't call press conferences, we didn't talk about what we were doing as we
sometimes do, but we went senator to senator to senator worked closely with them -- i was looking back at the bar of my own calls to their -- at the log of my own calls during the recess, i was making calls to senators all over the country. and mike was doing the same thing. but we -- we didn't the old-fashioned way. the way it was when i first came to the senate. you had senators who kept their word to each other. feinstein spoke very strongly in favor of our legislation, even though when she was chair, she would have liked more done, but realized more was not going to be done. rod white, he worked hard. but we had people on both sides of the aisle and it was just hard work. step-by-step.
and we all decided one thing. we are not going to be fighting by going over the precipice. because there have been plenty of times -- one that makes me angry, there would have been plenty of time to have done this a month ago or last year. so we were not going to allow a manufactured crises of going over the precipice. if we had to go longer than that, we would have gone longer than that. host: the senator rand paul deserve from -- some credit for not allowing the usa freedom act to be watered down? senator leahy: yes, he does. and i will let the two of them work out how they feel about that. and senator paul voted against the bill. he offered a bill of his own which i wish he had. the fact of the matter is it is
always easy to vote against something. it is more difficult to have something and to get votes for it. and that is what senator lee and i tried to do. and did do. i think the fact that senator paul would not allow us the railroad on anything -- the middle road on anything, and he deserves credit for that, but if he hadn't objected, others would have objected. we had made up our mind, we are not going to be railroaded into continuing a program that has been found illegal, in part by the second circuit, the unanimous decision, and we also looked at the fact that the house of representatives with members across the political spectrum voted overwhelmingly to make the changes we had in our
bill. and that goes back to your question, the amount of work done with house members over there. and cap's that work up constantly. -- kept that work up constantly. they made it clear they were not going to take a watering down what they did from the senate. and that also helped build up our chances. but mostly this was not doing press conference every day, but actually doing the work. frankly, it brought me back to my days when i was a prosecutor. we would announce what our results would be when the jury came back. not before. mike debonis: senator, you mentioned the fact that the reason we are able to do this is because there was a sunset that you wrote -- subset that you wrote into the law.
we know there is another major authority that is going to subset i believe 2017 senator leahy: 2017. mike debonis: -- of the thighs a law. is there any hope in mitch mcconnell senate, is there any hope -- mitch mcconnell's senate, is there any hope before the subset, or are we heading towards another brinkmanship cliff moment here? senator leahy: it is too early to tell, but i hope we don't have another brinksmanship. and you have less ability to bring parties together in brinksmanship. these articles have just come out that how seven due to his the backdoor way of going into americans' informational -- information. that is going to help us.
there is going to be two or three major debates coming up, 702 being one of them. and then the other one is a major -- it is going to be a major thing. frankly, i would like the side having a way for americans to know -- not just what their government collects -- what industry is collecting. what happens to the information when you go to a grocery store or a major chain and use your credit card? how is that being done? what happens if they are tracking your phone and you are walking near the xyz store, and all of a sudden pops up on your phone, the store is having 12% off for those who hold such and
such a credit card? that scares the hell out of me. dustin volz: what is a greater -- mike debonis: what is a greater threat to the americans' privacy? government or the private industry? senator leahy: the government. i don't want my government spying on me. it's -- i remember a very chilling meeting. i was on the board of directors. four or five of us met with the fbi director, and we had republicans and democrats and we were all prosecutors. boy, tough law and order and so on. we walked out, we were almost as shocked having listened to mr. hoover talk about he is going to
investigate people. several of these prosecutors had major organized crime investigations underway. they said, no, it is ominous. at some of the civil rights groups -- i am investigating them, and he says, you know, the "new york times" is becoming left-wing in their support of civil rights. they are almost the communist paper and then i will investigate it as such. now, just think about that. he died surely thereafter, but think to yourself if somebody like that, the government, had the tools at the hands that the government today has in its ability. now, i do want that to happen.
fortunately, we have had some excellent fbi directors. but here is a man, they could replace him because he was blackmailing different presidents. do we want to have that ability of anybody in our government? i don't. i don't care if it is a democratic or republican administration. host: we have a little bit more than five minutes left. dustin volz: another thing is with cyber security and specifically with increasing sharing between the private industry and the government. the news today -- personal management announcing the data of 4 million federal employees has -- at least 4 million, maybe more, has been accessed by hackers believed to be linked to china. some of your colleagues are already saying this is a need to pass the information sharing
legislation. this will help us sort of combat these type of cyber intrusions. at some others have some privacy concerns about that legislation. do you still have outstanding concerns about giving the government more information? senator leahy: yes, i do have concerns. i want to look at -- look more at what happened. but we need to pass this law immediately, otherwise we are filling the blank. you would think isis is marching up pennsylvania avenue during this last debate if we didn't pass it immediately. after 9/11, you had an administration come in and say you have to pass our legislation by friday, or whatever it was. do you have the legislation? no, we are drafting it. but you have to be prepared to pass it immediately. i said, what are we have a hearing on what you have here?
it forces things and then you find the evidence is different. we had the vice president back at that time saying that saddam hussein had weapons of mass distraction. suggesting that he was involved in 9/11. of course, he wasn't involved in 9/11 and our own intelligence showed there were no weapons of mass destruction. yet, we went into a $2 trillion to $3 trillion war, which is now destabilized the whole area, based on that. take a breather. there are always going to be attacks. there is always going to be hacking. i worry about spending the money to improve our own security, our own computer security. you want something that could be a frightening thought? if somebody really wants to attack us, find vulnerabilities in our power grids.
then when you are having 10 degree below zero weather in the northeast," or to 10 million people -- northeast, close down the power to 10 million people. let's start spending the kind of money to improve our own infrastructure. dustin volz: another tech issue it has been a very busy week for you, but yesterday, the committee passed the act 16-4. strong bipartisan support. one of the -- last year, the committee did not even get a bill out because, in part, be then senate majority leader harry reid the not want to bring it to the floor. his leadership going to find a way to -- senator leahy: well, some will. we would have gotten out of committee last year if we had the votes for it. what i heard it was not going even to be put on the -- the
agenda, i pulled the bill because i felt why make senators have to stand up against some of this, which they would, to pass the bill? again, quite work behind the scenes during the break at the end of the year. and for weeks and months, people in my office have just done unbelievable amounts of work. alexander givens and others working in both the house and the senate, both parties. we've got a lot of work done to get to where we were yesterday. the democratic leader in the legal staff and the judiciary --
this was amazing, but it was a lot of hard work. and we still have to get past the senate. and there will be more amendments, but we cannot have a situation where if you are made streets, have a little coffee shop and you bought legitimately off-the-shelf router or whatever so you can advertise you have wi-fi and someone comes in and says, i have a patent which may be on that, but if you give me $20,000, i won't sue you and shut you down. there is too much of that going on. host: we have time for one more question. mike debonis: let's turn to a completely different subject. we are coming up on a momentous anniversary, the voting rights act 50 years ago today. this legislation was moving through congress. i know this is something you feel strongly about that -- that congress needs to act to restore the protections. what are the prospects that
there will be any movement on that in this congress? are there any republicans who are willing to sign on to restore what the voting rights act once did? senator leahy: it is difficult but i think we will find someone. it is unfortunate the supreme court made a terrible decision in the shelby case, but we have got -- we have got to do this. now, people are trying to figure out how -- based on the number of voters in the district -- how the population -- there are some efforts underway to disenfranchise the elderly minority communities, other people. that is not america. we thought we won the civil rights battle after selma. we still have to fight. and i think the right to vote is
the most important and there are so many efforts that cut away a large part of our population. and that is wrong and that will destroy america if it is allowed to continue. mike debonis: very quickly, hillary and 10, the presidential, has made a lot of comments about improving the pet -- voters act. you happy to hear that? senator leahy: i am very happy to hear that. and now i will be happy to hear about the 15 or so others on the other side. host: we will have to leave it there. thank you very much for being our newsmaker. appreciate it. and we are back with our reporters, mike debonis: and dustin volz:. usa freedom act, the senate on
the passes it last week. the president weekly signed it into law. this does not subset now at 220 -- until 2019, but there is more debate happening. what is next? mike debonis: as the senator mentioned, you know, we have a number of -- we have another subset coming. having to do with section 702 of the foreign surveillance act. that deals with basically all internet traffic in a way that things were getting with now, we are only dealing with the phone metadata. this reveals all the data that snowden revealed about how google and facebook and these cloud services monitor
information in those spheres. and i think that, to a lot of people, people have found that almost to be more invasive and more problematic than the collection of phone metadata which is records of calls that you have made and when you made them and how long those calls were. both problematic, but the 702 authority is just a whole different level. what senator leahy has said is that now we have this coalition that we have proven is concerned about these things and interested in reform. the question is is whether we are going to come to another cliff type situation in two years or whether some actual reform bills can go through regular order, as they say, and get past before that. -- passed before that. host: dustin volz: explain this a little bit more, though.
i'll be talking about that the nsa doesn't need a warrant to go in and follow the -- are we talking about that the nsa doesn't need a warrant to go in and follow the searches? is this because it originates overseas? dustin volz: right. the foreign part is the key here. but as senator ron white and others note, domestic data can be instantly collected. your e-mails and the content and many cases, can be scooped up in that. this does implicate u.s. privacy as well. but i think an important thing to note about what senator leahy said about having us momentum, the program that is being ended was considered an effective by two government review panels. president obama said he wanted to end it 18 months ago. some members of the intelligence